Under A Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn
Reviewed by Tara Norman
Genre: Fiction, Christians, General
Publisher: Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Publication Dates: 2010
From the moment I picked up Robin Jones Gunn’s Under A Maui Moon, I was immediately submerged into Carissa’s life and could not put it down until I felt like her life had been put back into a neat little order. The story dives into sadness and drama immediately when Carissa almost has a dangerous encounter with a sexual predator, loses her job, quite possibly her husband, and has fled to Maui for what she imagined to be a peaceful stay. Carissa finds herself immersed in everything but peace and rest. Inside her cottage she wrestles with her past and the life she is trying to forget with Richard, her husband. Out on the island she is surrounded by traffic, noise and the clutter of tourists. A last minute decision to go camping with her host’s family, Kai and Irene, changes her life. She and Irene become closer friends and in an inspiring moment in the pools of Kipahulu she realizes she has been pushing everyone out of her life. Her fear of abandonment seeped into the very core of every relationship she had, including her relationship with God. She rejects these thoughts and realizations as quickly as they come and seeks the attention of another man. As earnestly as she is fleeing and hiding from reality, God is seeking to gain her as His child again.
While reading the chapters about Carissa’s camping trip, I was intrigued about the pools and why they were so special to Irene. Later I read that she believed Ka’ahumanu was born in a cave not too far from their camping site. It was a beautiful detail that Robin was able to weave into the story. Reading about Ka’ahumanu’s story made me want to do further research on her. The history of Ka’ahumanu and the old Hawaii gave the fictional part of the book life. Robin painted the picture of a young determined woman who grew up to be a forerunner for Christianity for her people. She changed the ways of her people by proving to them time and again she was able to defy the pagan gods and her God was bigger. The story of the priestess and Pele (the goddess of fire) was one of my favorites. Ka’ahumanu was approached by this priestess who had an entourage of thousands. Robin is so descriptive I can just imagine her perfectly in my head:
“Her tangled hair stuck out in every direction. The edges of her robe were singed from the fires of Kilauea. The wild woman carried a spear and a feathered kahili- that’s a tall pole with feathers in a circle around the top. It represented power. For her, it was the power of the ancient gods. Thousands of people gather to see what was going to happen” (pg 181).
Can’t you just imagine this stand off? Ka’ahumanu boldly stands before her and asks what message she has to deliver. The priestess says she is possessed by Pele and that he will cause a volcano to erupt if she does not send the missionaries away. I wanted to cheer for Ka’ahumanu when she stands up to the priestess and says,
“You are not Pele. You are a woman, as I am a woman, both made by God. The volcano of Kilauea, like all the volcanoes around the world, was also made by the one, true God. Now give up your false gods. Go back to your island. Plant the sweet potatoes. Beat the tapa cloth, catch fish, and be responsible for your own provisions instead of living on the gifts you demand from the people on behalf of Pele” (page181).
The very end of her command is my favorite, “Plant the sweet potatoes.” I wonder why that was the first vegetable she thought of? Ka’ahumanu was chartering through unfamiliar territory when she cast out that demon. This had never been done before. The people of the island were in awe that she wasn’t struck dead by the old gods. I was in awe of this historical figure that played a major role in the story. I love that Robin knew about Ka’ahumanu and put her story in her book.
As well as adding history about Hawaii, Robin gives the book a good amount of flair by using Hawaiian lingo. I literally laughed out loud when Mano, a character in the story, asked Carissa if she wanted to stop “fo’ some grinds.” My mind conjured up so many thoughts at that moment. I later learned grinds is food. Out of all the new words I learned in her book, that one phrase is my favorite. I told my family to get to the dinner table tonight “fo’ some good grinds.”
The picture she painted of Hawaii itself was dead on. I was talking recently with someone who had lived in Hawaii and she was telling me about how crowded and expensive it was. I was shocked to learn that most people live in condo’s or townhouses. I had always had this Jack Johnson banana pancake picture in my head of Hawaii. Little shacks right under a palm tree in front of the ocean. It is very different from the picture I have had all these years, but still did not deter me from day dreaming about going to live there the past couple of days. In Hawaii, every one leaves their windows open. They don’t have central heating and air conditioning. So as a rainstorm hit our house earlier this evening, I yearned to have that comfortable breeze and drift into another daydream about living in Hawaii. As I opened the window, I was quickly awakened by a steam bath and remembered that is the reason we do not have our windows open in Texas.
In summary, Carissa’s escape to Maui was an engaging escape for me as well. I’ll be reading more books by Robin Gunn and hope to enjoy the trip as much as I did to Hawaii in this one!
Review Copy Provided by Wynn Wynn Media. Thank you.
I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.